Al­leged racial pro­fil­ing at Star­bucks sparks a furor

CEO apol­o­gizes on TV; calls for boy­cott heat up

USA TODAY International Edition - - MONEY - Mike Snider and Zlati Meyer

“I’m tired of the weak cor­po­rate re­sponse when these in­ci­dent(s) hap­pen.”

Kevin John­son Can­di­date for Penn­syl­va­nia’s 3rd District in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, in a tweet

For African Amer­i­cans, it was only the lat­est highly vis­i­ble case of a video­taped racial in­ci­dent that’s un­likely to hap­pen to white pa­trons.

But this time, the ugly en­counter that led to the ar­rest of two black men in­volved Star­bucks, a chain that has tried to po­si­tion it­self as both home to pro­gres­sive poli­cies and a place to so­cial­ize, not just to sip cof­fee. It has tried to stand apart from din­ers such as Ap­ple­bee’s and IHOP, where other racially charged in­ci­dents have oc­curred re­cently.

Calls for a boy­cott con­tin­ued Mon­day as Star­bucks’ CEO took to tele­vi­sion to apol­o­gize, say­ing he is go­ing to in­sti­tute “un­con­scious bias” train­ing for man­agers.

The apol­ogy came as the furor built over a video­taped in­ci­dent in which po­lice at a Star­bucks in the Cen­ter City district of down­town Philadel­phia ar­rested the men Thurs­day af­ter store em­ploy­ees said they were tres­pass­ing. The men, ac­cord­ing to po­lice, had asked to use the re­stroom. But em­ploy­ees, cit­ing store pol­icy that only pay­ing cus­tomers can use the re­strooms, re­fused. They sat down and wouldn’t leave when asked by em­ploy­ees to do so, po­lice said.

The men ex­plained they were wait­ing for a friend, who hap­pened to be white and is seen hav­ing ar­rived in the video and ques­tion­ing why of­fi­cers would hand­cuff and ar­rest them. The video has drawn more than 9.5 mil­lion views on­line, and there was also an ac­tive #Boy­cottS­tar­bucks move­ment on Twit­ter.

An­other video sur­faced Mon­day, one of an African-Amer­i­can man in the Los An­ge­les area at­tempt­ing to show that he was de­nied use of a locked Star­bucks re­stroom while a white cus­tomer was al­lowed to use it.

So­cial me­dia has filled with calls to boy­cott Star­bucks, with some show­ing pho­tos of cups from ri­val fast-food chains where they had bought a cup of cof­fee. On Mon­day, de­mon­stra­tors gath­ered at the Star­bucks in Philadel­phia to protest, chant­ing slo­gans such as, “A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap, Star­bucks cof­fee is anti-black.” A Star­bucks re­gional vice pres­i­dent who at­tempted to talk to the pro­test­ers was shouted down.

In ad­di­tion to his ap­pear­ance on

ABC’s Good Morn­ing Amer­ica, Star­bucks CEO Kevin John­son was of­fer­ing to meet with com­mu­nity lead­ers, but the com­pany de­clined to make any ex­ec­u­tives avail­able for in­ter­views. The com­pany “stands firmly against dis­crim­i­na­tion or racial pro­fil­ing,” he said in the state­ment. He said the Seat­tle­based com­pany’s poli­cies led to a “bad out­come.”

Fed­eral law says it is il­le­gal for re­tail­ers to dis­crim­i­nate against cus­tomers by color, race, land of ori­gin, re­li­gion or dis­abil­ity. Re­tail­ers can refuse ser­vice based on a dress code, but the re­tailer must be con­sis­tent in ap­ply­ing that re­fusal.

Philadel­phia Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Richard Ross has de­fended his of­fi­cers’ ac­tions. When the of­fi­cers ar­rived, they asked the men “po­litely” to leave mul­ti­ple times be­fore the ar­rests, Ross said. They were re­leased when Star­bucks de­clined to pros­e­cute.

Ac­tivist Asa Khalif, left, de­mands change Sun­day at the Star­bucks in Philadel­phia where two black men were ar­rested. AP

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